Hey, remember that time I went for a running fitness assessment? Well, this past Tuesday I went to meet with Lewis at Peak Centre for a consultation, where he explains all the stuff in the report that they send you with the results of your test.
So, as it turns out, I’m a huge wimp. Lewis didn’t say that in so many words – he’s far too professional and positive to have said such a thing – but he did tell me that on the test, people usually keep running to a blood lactate level of 8-10 mmol/L, whereas I gave up at 7.2 mmol/L. I’m not the worst he’s ever seen, but I need to train my brain to accept more suffering!
I won’t bore you with all the details1, but some hightlights from the consultation are:
- When you are training, you are supposed to do some of your runs slow (often called the “LSD – Long Slow Distance” run2 ) and other runs quickly (sometimes called “tempo runs” or “intervals” or “speed work”3. You often hear that runners run their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow. Well, it turns out I’ve been doing that. To truly know the speed you need to run on your slow runs (a.k.a., zone 1), you need to know where your aerobic threshold is – finding this out is a big reason to do the test! The aerobic threshold is the threshold below which you could run indefinitely, because you aren’t building up any lactate (lactate building up basically = fatigue). The results from the test tell you what heart rate range you need to run in in order to stay in zone 1 – for me, it’s 138-153 beats per minute. Doing this builds your aerobic base, so that, over time, your muscles will be able to go faster while still staying below the aerobic threshold. When you go above this, you aren’t training your muscles to improve your aerobic base, so you are going to hit a plateau instead. I haven’t consistently been using a heart rate monitor before this, as I didn’t know what heart rate range to be aiming for, but I’m reasonably sure based on how fast I can currently run while in my zone 1 heart rate range, that I was running my LSD runs too fast.
- I’ve also been running my tempo runs too slowly. Apparently it is quite common that people do what they think are “tempo” runs, but they aren’t really reaching the pace that they need to reach to increase their lactate threshold (a.k.a. zone 3). Given that, as mentioned above, I’m a wimp, I’ve totally been wimping out on this and running at what I thought was fast, but I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough because did I mention I’m a wimp? The pace I need to reach for zone 3 is 5:24-5:43 min/km. This is *much* faster than my typically “tempo” run during my BMO training, which would be closer to a 5:50 average (meaning half the time I’m above that and very little of my run would have been within the zone 3 range).
- I’ve run all my half marathons and all the LSD runs while training for a half marathon using 10 and 1s. This is where you run for 10 minutes, then walk for 1 minute, and repeat for the entire run. I’ve always run this way as my friend who got me into running did this and it’s been a habit ever since. This was something I really wanted to ask Lewis about during my consultation, as I have been wondering if it’s time for me to leave the 10 and 1s behind. His take on them is that if you are doing your zone 1 training correctly, you don’t need to take the 1 minute walk breaks because you won’t be running too fast for the long distance. When you do 10 and 1s, you tend to do the 10 minute running portion faster than you would otherwise, since you know you have a 1 minute break coming up. And that means you are running in zone 2 and thus not training your aerobic base. So, starting now, I’m say bye-bye to 10 and 1s!
- I haven’t been refuelling properly. For a 2 hour zone 1 run, I should be taking in 116 g of carbs. My current fuel source of choice for running is Honey Stingers, which contain 39 g of carbs per package. Meaning that I should be eating 3 packages of these on a 2 hour run. I’d be lucky if I ate 1 whole package. So more attention to refuelling on the run is another thing to work on. I will also have to work on eating and drinking while I run, since I won’t be having any more 1 minute walk breaks to do that!
So basically, my game plan is:
- run 85-90% of my training in zone 1, based on my heart rate target range
- run 10-15% of my training in zone 2, based on my pace target4.
- go back for another assessment half way through my training, to see if I’ve improved enough that my target ranges will have changed
- kick some butt on the Montreal demi-marathon!
Wish me luck!
- *I* didn’t find it boring – it was *super* interesting, in fact. But I can imagine that you, dear reader, might not be so interested in the minutiae of my physiological state and how this relates to the details of my training plan. [↩]
- a.k.a., zone 1 [↩]
- “speed work”, I believe, would be super fast (a.k.a., zone 5), whereas a “tempo run” would be quite fast, but not crazy fast (a.k.a., zone 3). [↩]
- Apparently these are better done on a treadmill, since it’s much easier to control pace than running outside. As much as I hate treadmills, I may just have to add this to my “learn to live with suffering” training. And really, for an interval-style of run like I’ll be doing for my zone 3 runs, I hate the treadmill less, as I at least have something to do, what with the turning the speed up and down and watching the time at which I need to turn the speed up and down. As luck would have it, the exercise room in my building *just* got a treadmill, but it’s not yet set up as we are waiting for a special adaptor plug to be delivered so we can plug it in. I guess once we have that, I’ll be getting back together with the treadmill [↩]